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This selection of photos illustrates just some of the aircraft accidents suffered by the 361st between January 1944 and July 1945 and the pilots who were involved. Inevitably, a few of these accidents were fatal and today serve as a reminder of all those members of the Group who paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War 2.

Please click on the thumbnail picture for a high quality enlargement.

The 361st Fighter Group was declared operational on 15 January 1944. However, the Group's first mission was cancelled due to fog at Bottisham. Four days later, the first mission was scrubbed again because of fog, but not without incident. Falling foul of the muddy conditions, Lt. Stanley D. Rames of the 375th Squadron aboard P-47D 42-75556, E2:H nosed his plane over, but survived unscathed. (Rames).

Heavy though the aircraft was, the Thunderbolt could be tipped over, as 375th Squadron pilot Capt. William J. Shackelford discovered while landing his personal P-47D 42-75096, E2:D at Bottisham on 5 February 1944. Even so, he was rescued with only minor injuries and completed his tour credited with one enemy aircraft damaged in the air plus one destroyed and two damaged on the ground. (Casto)
P-47D 42-75155, B7:K came to rest just off the PSP extension of the main runway at Bottisham, following undercarriage failure on 13 February 1944. Evidently, minimal damage was caused, thanks to a well-executed belly-landing by Lt. Preston B. Collins of the 374th. Lt. Collins completed his tour in October 1944 credited with one enemy aircraft destroyed in the air. (Pearce)
Eight days after shooting down an Fw190 north of Metz, which was to be his only enemy aircraft claim of the war, Lt. Howard A. Lane crash-landed his personal P-47D 42-75152, E9:L in a field near Bottisham on 4 March 1944. While his plane was salvaged, Lt. Lane eventually flew two tours with the 376th Squadron, was appointed Operations Officer in November 1944 and finished the war with the rank of Major.

The Group suffered its first fatal accident in the United Kingdom when Lt. Glenn T. Berge, 374th Squadron Assistant Operations Officer, flying P-47D 42-8604, was forced to abort because of a "runaway" propeller, shortly after taking off for an escort mission on 5 March 1944. While returning to base in a low overcast, his Thunderbolt crashed and exploded near Babraham. (Pearce)

376th Squadron Engineering Officer Capt. Francis E. Murray (2nd left) surveys the damage to P-47D 42-75449, E9:O following a crash-landing at Bottisham by Lt. David C. Landin on 27 March 1944. This machine was the personal mount of Capt. Sam C. Wilkerson who was lost to flak during the Anklam mission of 4 August 1944 while flying P-51D 44-13763, E9:O, but baled out and was later captured. (Pearce)

Lt. Martin H. Johnson Jr's personal P-47D, 42-75200, E2:F of the 375th ended up just off the main runway at Bottisham after a one-wheel landing on 22 April 1944. Only a few days earlier, Lt. Johnson had been one of "Bill's Buzz Boys" and with a total ground score of eight enemy aircraft destroyed and one probable, in addition to one aerial victory, later became the Group's top scoring strafer. (Pearce)

"Baby Margene", 42-75560, E2:G, Lt. Eugene Cole's personal P-47D finished up a battered wreck on 2 May 1944. While landing at Bottisham after a mission, Lt. Jack S. Crandell of the 375th undershot the runway and crashed through the perimeter hedge beside the Bottisham - Little Wilbraham road. Within a matter of days, the P-47 would be replaced by a new P-51B, 42-106778, which would later carry the same name and codes.(Cole)

Maj. Roswell Freedman's P-47D-22, 42-26035, E9:F of the 376th Squadron crashed at RAF Waterbeach during a training mission flown in co-operation with the RAF on 3 May 1944. Shortly after take-off, engine failure forced the pilot, Capt. Wallace B. Frank, to return to the field, but then was confronted by two of 514 Squadron's Lancasters parked on a hardstand. Fortunately, he had just enough flying speed to avoid a collision! (Frank)

The 361st converted to the P-51 in early May 1944 and following a brief period when both types operated together, the Thunderbolts were phased out and the first all Mustang mission was flown on 13 May. On the 16th, however, the Group suffered its first fatality with the new plane when former "Bill's Buzz Boy", Lt. Eugene W. Kinnaird of the 375th crashed near Lode during a mock dogfight with a RAF Hurricane. His personal P-51B, 43-24790, E2:X was totally destroyed. (USAF)

Lt. Donald T. Woodward of the 376th Squadron had a lucky escape while flying Lt. Bill May's assigned P-51B 42-106754, E9:M on 27 May 1944. Shortly after taking off from Bottisham for a bomber escort mission, he was forced to make a belly landing near Bartlow because of a mechanical failure. However, the Mustang quickly caught fire but, mercifully, he was rescued with only minor injuries before the plane exploded. (May)

While returning from a target escort mission to Rotenburg airfield on 30 May 1944, Lt. Loy C. Vandiver of the 374th Squadron crash-landed at Bottisham due to locked brakes. Thus, his personal mount, P-51C 42-103362, B7:V was written off as Category "E". However, Lt. Vandiver went on to complete his tour in September 1944 with a claim of one aerial victory plus one enemy aircraft damaged on the ground. (Correction to Little Friends caption which was based on incorrect WW2 records) (Pearce)

Ground crewmen inspect the damage to P-51B "Nita"/"Bottoms Up", 42-106917, E2:K which crash-landed just short of the base after a mission in support of the Allied landings in Normandy on 7 June 1944, piloted by Lt. Murray C. Bell of the 375th Squadron. The Mustang was repaired but crashed and exploded during a strafing mission on 26 August 1944. The pilot, Lt. Jack S. Crandell, was killed in action. (USAF)

376th Squadron P-51B "Jane", 42-106864, E9:B ended up in a beet field after a crash on take-off from the 390th Bomb Group's base at Framlingham on 21 June 1944. While the assigned pilot, Lt. Will T. Butts Jr. escaped injury and completed his tour credited with three aerial victories, the Mustang was subsequently repaired and later served with the 486th Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group at Bodney, coded PZ:F. (Pearce)

Lt. William V. Staples of the 374th lies momentarily trapped in his P-51B 42-106655, B7:O (formerly L/Col. Wallace E. Hopkins' "Ferocious Frankie", B7:H) after colliding with a Cletrac tractor while landing at Bottisham on 17 July 1944. Fortunately, he survived with only minor injuries, but was killed when his P-51B 43-24840, B7:G crashed shortly after take-off near Cowlinge on 31 July 1944. (Casto)